One of the strangest things about John Watson is the way he can’t seem to stop looking at Martin. Martin is under no illusions about his appearance – he knows very well that there is nothing remotely attractive about him. John, however, seems to find his face endlessly fascinating, his eyes are constantly drawn to it. It’s a bit disconcerting, but it’s also really nice. No one has ever wanted to look at Martin before.
Then there’s the fact that John seems to enjoy spending time with Martin. He actively seeks contact, texts him, calls him, invites him for drinks, asks him out, and doesn’t tire of his company. John Watson, an ex-army doctor and a published writer, good-looking and kind and easy-going, who could have anyone he wanted, and he wants Martin. Awkward, inept, boring Martin, who’s never even held hands with anyone before.
It’s no wonder that Martin falls in love, and fast.
The book John had written is a collection of short stories about a private detective called Sherlock Holmes, a friend of John’s who died last year in Switzerland. It’s obvious, both from the short stories and the way he sometimes talks about Sherlock, that John was more than a little in love with him. It’s also obvious that he’s still grieving, and of course that means that he cannot fully return Martin’s feelings. But that’s all right, Martin tells himself. Maybe it will change with time, and if it doesn’t, well, that’s all right too. Martin isn’t going to be jealous of someone who’s dead, he’s not going to ruin one of the very few good things in his life by asking for more than he can have. He’d given up on trying to find someone who would want a relationship with him long ago, and John appears to be genuinely fond of him. It’s enough. Really.
It feels so wonderful to have someone to spend time with, someone to hold him close, touch him, kiss him, care about what happens to him. John doesn’t mind that Martin is so inexperienced; he’s gentle and exceedingly patient with him, always making sure that Martin is comfortable and sometimes smiling at him like Martin is amazing, and he makes Martin feel good about himself. Martin is still awkward at times, but it doesn’t matter to him anymore because it doesn’t matter to John. John would never mock him. John likes Martin the way he is, never attempting to change him, and that’s more than Martin had ever dared to hope for. He’s happy.
John knows that it’s a big mistake, that he’ll end up hurting both himself and Martin, but he can’t help himself. He moved out of London in order not to be reminded of Sherlock at every step, and then he decided that it was a good idea to start dating a man who looks so much like Sherlock it’s uncanny. It was a terrible idea, he knows it, but he can’t let go now that he has found the only thing that makes him hurt a little less: knowing that this way he’ll never forget Sherlock’s face, the sound of his voice.
As well as the similarities, there are also many differences, but they don’t matter when Sherlock’s eyes look at him in ways they never had in Sherlock’s lifetime – filled with tenderness and desire and undisguised affection.
John does his best to make Martin happy, tries to fulfil his every wish in a cheap attempt to make the fact that he’s using him seem less horrible. It doesn’t work.